Anything but a story foretold: multiple politics of resistance to the agrarian extractivist project in Guatemala
Proponents of‘flex’ crops like oil palm and sugarcane claim that these multi-purpose crops can enable food and energy security along with mitigating the impacts of climate change. However, critics argue that these businesses are changing labor and land relations in agrarian societies, with particularly negative impacts on the incomes and livelihoods of smallholder and marginal farmers. In 2008, the government of Guatemala identified approximately 37% of the country’s farmland to be suitable for sugarcane and oil palm production. This paper explores the shifts in agrarian societies that are caused by the entry of these agribusinesses, and the responses of impacted communities, including dissent and resistance to changing labor relations.
Research goals & methods
The author used multiple research methods including interview, participatory observation, geographic information system analysis, and a household survey conducted in October 2010 for which 294 households were randomly selected from 20 villages spread across 6 districts.
Conclusions & takeaways
The author describes a new form of agrarian capitalism which is emerging in Guatemala, which he terms agrarian extractivism, defined by financialization and flexibility. This system is characterized by firstly, the increasing use of new farming technologies and techniques which typically rely on expensive inputs, secondly, a flexibility of labor arrangements designed to maximize profits, and thirdly, an increase in non-agrarian and non-indigenous sources of capital. According to him, the oil palm industry in particular is projecting itself as a solution of food insecurity and climate change, thereby disguising agrarian extractivism as socially responsible business. The resistance to extractive projects is not one unified collective resistance, and is marked by social differentiation within the community, uncertainty on how best to engage with the state, and hurdles to effective dialogue across allies.
Anything but a story foretold: multiple politics of resistance to the agrarian extractivist project in Guatemala. The Journal of Peasant Studies. 2015;42(3-4):489 - 515. doi:10.1080/03066150.2015.1013468..
- Human Geography and Planning Department, Utrecht University